pop up description layer
UFO Mysteries
Space & Time
7 Wonders
Surprising Science
Troubled History
Index/Site Map

Custom Search

E-mail this page link to a friend
Enter friend's e-mail:

Requires javascript

Science Over the Edge

A Roundup of Strange Science for the Month

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

November 2009

In the News:

Group Tries to Debunk Shroud of Turin - An Italian group claims it has been able to reproduce the famed Shroud of Turin - supposedly the cloth that covered Jesus in the tomb - using methods and materials available in the 14 century. The shroud shows the image of a crucified man. This has led some to believe it Christ's "picture" was recorded on the cloth by a miracle during his resurrection. Luigi Garlaschelli, a professor of chemistry at the University of Pavia, said that his team used linen woven with the same technique as the shroud and then aged it by heating and washing. The cloth was then laid over a volunteer, who wore a mask to reproduce the face, and rubbed with red ochre, a well-known pigment at the time. According to Garlaschelli the process took a week. If the experiment can be reproduced by others it may go a long way toward proving the cloth is a medieval fraud.

New 4.4 Million-Year-Old Human Remains Found - Researchers have unveiled to the public a 4.4 million-year-old skeleton of a hominid female that appears to be man's earliest known ancestor. Ardipithecus ramidus, nicknamed "Ardi," lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Aramis, Ethiopia. This makes this specimen more than a million years older than the Lucy, the partial ape-human skeleton found in Africa in 1974. "What Ardipithecus tells us is that we as humans have been evolving to what we are today for at least 6 million years," C. Owen Lovejoy, an evolutionary biologist at Kent State University and project anatomist. Researchers hypothesize that humans took a different evolutionary trajectory from those of chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas. Ardi challenges earlier beliefs that humans evolved from chimpanzees, our closest genetic relatives.

Researchers Find Dinosaur Stampede - Scientists from Brigham Young University have found a site in near Moab, Utah, where thousands of dinosaur bones lay crushed as the result of an ancient stampede. "Although enough bones were recovered to assemble several complete dinosaurs, the vast majority of bones are broken to bits and pieces, just pulverized," said BYU professor Brooks Britt, lead author on the study. Scientists have identified 67 individual dinosaurs representing 8 species so far out of the estimated 4,200 bones at the site. The location of this dense cluster of bones - near the shore of an ancient lake bed - suggests a drought was the cause of the incident with huge 30-ton sauropod dinosaurs walking over dead and dying smaller animals and crushing their bones while trying to get to the water to drink. "Some of these bones were almost 5 feet long, and they are green, and you really have to work hard to shatter bone that's still green," Britt said. "That means the big boys were stepping on those things. Those would have been audible, big snaps."

Ida Not Our Relative - Last May some scientists hailed a fossil referred to as Ida as "our earliest ancestor." Now another group of researchers claims that not only is Ida not a human ancestor, but that it does not even belong in the same primate category as monkeys, apes and humans. Instead it belongs in another major grouping, which includes lemurs. Erik Seiffert of Stony Brook University in New York and his colleagues compared 360 specific anatomical features of 117 living and extinct primate species to draw up a family tree. There work suggests that Ida, an example of the species Darwinius, is as about as far removed from monkey-ape-human ancestry as a primate could be. Their report is in this month's issue of the journal Nature.

New Leonardo Work Found - A painting bought at an auction 2 years ago for $19,000 may now be worth over $150 million if it turns out that a new assessment that it was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci is right. The painting, "Profile of the Bella Principessa," was thought to be the work of a 19th-century German until a fingerprint of an index or middle finger was found on the painting that matched a fingerprint from Leonardo's "St. Jerome" in the Vatican. "Leonardo used his hands liberally and frequently as part of his painting technique. His fingerprints are found on many of his works," explains Peter Paul Biro the Montreal-based forensic art expert who found the print. "I was able to make use of multispectral images to make a little smudge a very readable fingerprint." If experts are correct, it will be the first major work by Leonardo to be identified in 100 years.


Science Quote of the Month - "Shall I refuse my dinner because I do not fully understand the process of digestion?" - Oliver Heaviside (1850-1925)


What's New at the Museum:

2012: The End of the World? - Books, internet sites and now even a major motion picture suggest that bad things are going to happen on December 21, 2012. Is any of this craziness based on scientific fact? >Full Story


Ask the Curator:

Moon's Strange Orbit - Does the moon revolve the Earth directly above equator? If yes, does it mean that people in upper northern hemisphere will be see it on the horizon? - Anonymous

Our moon, unlike most moons in our solar system, does not follow a path directly above its planet's equator. Instead, our moon follows an orbital path very much closer to Earth's ecliptic plane. Earth's ecliptic is the path Earth follows as it orbits the Sun.

The earth's equator is tilted off its ecliptic by a little more than 23 degrees. This angle is what gives us the seasons as the northern hemisphere is more tilted toward the sun during the summer and away from the sun in the winter (The opposite is true for the southern hemisphere where the seasons there are reversed).

This tilt also explains why the moon traces a different path across the sky depending on the season. Like the sun, during the winter it is closer to the horizon. In fact, further north than the Arctic Circle the moon will not be visible for 14 days at a time as it passes out of sight behind the tilt of our planet for half of its orbit. Or course when it does re-emerge it rises and stays up for fourteen days (The same is true at the Antarctic Circle).

The fact that the moon orbits close to the Earth's ecliptic plane has been used as evidence against the theory that the moon was created at the same time the Earth. In this theory, most of the spinning material in the region of Earth was pulled together by gravity to form our planet, but some of pulled together to form the moon. If that was the case, however, we would expect out moon to be orbiting along the equator. The current leading theory as to the creation of the moon is that a body the size of Mars hit Earth throwing massive amounts of material into orbit. Over the course of the next century this material was drawn together by gravity to form our moon.


In History:

Batman Sighting - On a fall afternoon in 1956 a man living in the vicinity of Falls City, Nebraska, reported a humanoid flying figure with a "very frightening, almost demonic" face and bat-like wings. The creature was flew about 15 feet above the ground and was reportedly between eight and nine feet tall. The winged humanoid flew over the man, and then disappeared among the trees. No explanation is known for this sighting and the man said he suffered terrifying nightmares about this incident for the next twenty years.


In the Sky:

Leonids Shower - November brings the Leonids Meteor Shower. A meteor shower occurs when the Earth encounters debris left a comet. In this case it is the comet Tempel-Tuttle which is responsible for the show. The shower is expected to peak on the Predawn hours of November 17th. The shooting stars will appear to come from the constellation Leo which will rise until after midnight.



Earhart Died on Nikumaroro - The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) says that it is likely that famous female aviator died on an uninhabited tropical island in the southwestern Pacific. The island, named Nikumaroro, was some 300 miles southeast of Earhart's target destination, Howland Island. A number of artifacts recovered by TIGHAR suggest that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, made a forced landing on the island's smooth, flat coral reef. Also in 1940 British Colonial Service officer Gerald Gallagher recovered a partial skeleton of a castaway on Nikumaroro. The description of the remains seems consistent with Earhart, though the bones have since been misplaced. Although conventional wisdom is that Earhart's place crashed at sea, TIGHAR is convinced that the evidence points to a forced landing on Nikumaroro. Earhart's life is the subject of a new movie starring Hilary Swank.


On the Tube:

Please check local listing for area outside of North America.

NOVA: Becoming Human - A three part series by Nova on PBS. Tuesday, October 20 at 8 pm - First Steps:November 3 at 8 pm; Birth of Humanity: .November 10 at 8 pm; Last Human Standing: November 17 at 8 pm; ET/PT.

Science of the Movies Zombies! - Nar meets Garrett Brown, Oscar-winning inventor of the Steadicam and Skycam; Nar gets a zombie makeover from Quantum Creation FX and explores the science of the undead; Obscura Digital unveils the future of entertainment with effects from Minority Report. On The Science Channel. Nov 12, 8:00 pm; Nov 12, 11:00 pm ET/PT.

Mystery of the Persian Mummy - Encased in a gilded wooden coffin inside a stone sarcophagus, a Persian Princess mummy over 2,600 years old was found. Follow the discoveries that turned this archaeological treasure into a murder hunt. On The Science Channel. Nov 09, 8:00 pm; Nov 09, 11:00 pm; Nov 10, 3:00 pm; Nov 11, 3:00 am; ET/PT.

Can We Make a Star on Earth - Three minutes after the Big Bang, something remarkable happened. A phenomenon emerged that would go on to forge all matter in the universe; a kind of nuclear reaction that millions of years later would light the up first stars...Nuclear Fusio On The Science Channel. Nov 03, 10:00 pm; Nov 04, 1:00 am; Nov 04, 5:00 pm; Nov 05, 5:00 am; ET/PT.

The Universe : Science Fiction. Science Fact - Warp speed, transporters, wormholes and lasers--they are all staples of science fiction books, movies, and TV shows. But the fantastic world of tomorrow is quickly becoming the futuristic world of today. While you may not be "beaming" to your next appointment any time soon, researchers are preparing for the first tests of a present-day "transporter." And while scientists have long mocked Hollywood's visions of warp speed and faster-than-light travel as prohibited by Einstein's laws, a new generation of physicists continues to rewrite the fundamental rules of the universe. Is there a way around the cosmic speed limit? Maybe... as long as you're prepared to survive a journey through the ultra-high energies of one of the most violent places in the cosmos--the heart of a twisting, swirling vortex that leads either to strange, new worlds... or certain death. On The History Channel. Tuesday November 03 09:00 PM; ET/PT.

Jesse James' Hidden Treasure - By the time Jesse James was killed in 1882, he'd stolen over a million and a half dollars according to some estimates--gold, coins and cash that could be worth over $50 million today. History often paints James as a clever outlaw who stole money to finance a lavish criminal lifestyle, a man whose sixteen year long crime spree came to a dramatic halt in 1882 when a fellow gang member betrayed him and shot him dead in the back of the head. But now, a treasure hunt may reveal a totally new story. Was Jesse really stealing for himself, or was he actually secreting away large sums of wealth, in order to finance one of the most clandestine secret societies in American history? Follow a team of treasure hunters searching for where he stashed his riches... and a new truth about Jesse James. Their discoveries may not only re-write the history of why Jesse stole, it could also raise new questions about his death. On The History Channel. Monday, November 09 08:00 PM; Tuesday, November 10 12:00 AM; ET/PT.



Science over the Edge Archives

LGM Archive 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

Copyright Lee Krystek 2009. All Rights Reserved.


Related Links

Great Pyramid

King Tut Curse

Mummy Page

Rosetta Stone

Lost Ark

Making Mummies

Make a Fruit Mummy

Odd Archeology